By Iqbal Jassat
Much to the disappointment of South Africa’s trade unions and human rights organizations, the Competition Tribunal (CT) has ignored their objections by handing over a dairy company to an entity from apartheid Israel. An entity embedded in Israel’s colonization of Palestine.
The controversial sellout of South Africa’s largest dairy company Clover, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny and calls for boycott, due to the deal originating in a regime awash with crimes of ethnic cleansing, has regrettably been given the go-ahead.
While it may be subject to a range of conditions, unfortunately, the Competition Tribunal has failed to consider the all-important question of facilitating what amounts to a neocolonial grab.
Although questions have and will be raised on whether subjecting the sellout to job losses is adequate. Employment and in particular local procurement are as crucial to our country’s economic woes as indeed the need to protect our economic sovereignty.
South Africa’s dignity as an independent country guided by a human rights ethos is not only derived from the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. It is shaped too by the brutality of colonization and apartheid. A horror inflicted on this country’s indigenous population which to its shame left a legacy of deep wounds. Racial discrimination, which was the cornerstone of British imperialism and which continued by the architects of apartheid, advantaged corporate powers.
A raging debate that ensues to this day centers on the question of whether political sovereignty at the fall of white minority rule delivered economic freedom. That it hasn’t is the undisputed view of an overwhelming majority, whose misfortunes steeped in poverty bear testimony to it.
It thus is necessary to ensure that economic sovereignty is not separated from political freedom. If indeed it is dissected, it will weaken regulatory bodies such as the Competition Tribunal, impacting its ability to adjudicate without constrain.
It would then not be able to fearlessly take into account that the origin of the consortium led by Milco, based in colonial Israel and owned by the Central Bottling Company, should have a bearing in its decision.
In the absence of a global-view informed by our freedom struggle, asset takeovers by countries such as Israel where the Palestinians have been engaged in a struggle to free themselves from colonial occupation will continue unabated.
It perpetuates an injustice to an afflicted people whose leaders and cadres shared the same trenches with our freedom fighters. It strays from our collective consciousness about the supreme sacrifices made by our heroes and heroines.
It is indeed for this reason that we respect the decision by Brimstone to pull out of the deal.
A profound demonstration by a corporate entity to place principle before profit and a timely reminder of the significance of the global sanctions campaign launched by the anti-apartheid movement.
The opposition by COSATU and trade union Food and Allied Workers Union to the sellout can neither be ignored nor dismissed. General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa, as well as BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), have made known their opposition to the Clover deal.
If South Africa is to give practical expression to its solidarity with Occupied Palestine, it will require State-Owned Enterprises, Chapter 9 institutions, regulatory bodies and the corporate world to join hands with human rights NGOs by declaring their collective disapproval of colonial settler Israel’s dispossession of Palestine.
Justice is indivisible from socio-economics and politics. For the CT to ignore the reasons as argued by the unions and civil society creates a huge conundrum for South Africa’s human rights-based foreign policy.
It needs to advance a principled position in defense of justice, not regress. Granting apartheid Israel’s corporate powers the license to occupy this country’s economic spaces, is to give it a nod to expand illegal settlements in Palestine’s Occupied Territories.
– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com